Evgeni Plushenko

Yevgeny Plushenko named to Russia Olympic Team; figure skating roster

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Yevgeny Plushenko headlines a strong Russian figure skating team that looks to be the favorite for gold in the new Olympic team event.

Plushenko was named to his fourth Olympic Team, one day after performing in front of Russian officials in a test skate to determine if he would be the nation’s lone men’s singles skater.

Plushenko won Olympic silver in 2002, gold in 2006 and silver in 2010. He’s trying to become the second skater to win four Olympic singles medals, joining Swede Gillis Grafstrom, who won gold in 1920, 1924 and 1928 and silver in 1932.

Canada’s Patrick Chan and Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu are seen as the top men, but the rest of the field has been up and down over the past season.

The Russian women are Yuliya Lipnitskaya, 15, and Adelina Sotnikova, 17, who went one-two at the European Championships last week. Lipnitskaya is seen as at least the favorite for bronze in Sochi, and she could enter the picture for gold with Yuna Kim and Mao Asada.

Tatyana Volosozhar and Maksim Trankov lead three pairs teams. They are the reigning world and European champions but were beaten by German rivals Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy at the Grand Prix Final in December.

The other pairs teams are Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov and Ksenia Stolbova and Fyodor Klimov.

Yekaterina Bobrova and Dmitry Soloviyev are the top Russian ice dance couple and European champions. Ice dance gold is expected to come down to American world champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White and Canadian Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.

The other ice dance couples are Yelena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov and Viktoria Sinitsina and Ruslan Zhiganshin.

No other country can boast medal threats across all four figure skating disciplines, which bodes well for Russia’s chances in the team event that begins the day before the Opening Ceremony.

Ashley Wagner changes long program

Russian Olympic medalists gifts include racehorse

Abdulrashid Sadulaev
AP
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MOSCOW (AP) — Luxury cars, apartments, even a racehorse — being an Olympic medalist in Russia can come with great material rewards but also controversy.

Under President Vladimir Putin, it’s become a tradition for Russia’s Olympic heroes to be showered with large cash sums and sometimes unwanted gifts.

On Friday, less than 24 hours after dozens of medalists were presented with BMW cars at the Kremlin by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, an advertisement appeared online offering one of them for sale, with photographs showing the car still covered in stickers celebrating Russia’s medal haul in Rio.

The advertisement offering the BMW X6 for 4.67 million rubles ($72,000) was anonymous and quickly withdrawn. It couldn’t be independently verified by The Associated Press, though Russian agency R-Sport claimed the seller was a Russian medalist who thought the car was too big and unwieldy.

Figure skater Maxim Trankov, who received a Mercedes-Benz SUV for his gold medal in 2014, said few Olympians could afford to own such cars.

“Has no one thought that these gift cars are not only liable for the tax on luxury items, but also aren’t cheap to run and earnings can’t cover it?” he wrote on Twitter. “I’d sell mine too if it came to it … Or does everyone think all sports pay as well as soccer, hockey or tennis?”

Gymnast Seda Tutkhalyan said she wouldn’t be able to drive her new BMW because at 17 years of age she was too young to have a license.

While online commenters mostly supported an athlete’s right to sell expensive Olympic gifts, many were critical of the government for a display of conspicuous consumption at the Kremlin at a time when Russia’s pension and healthcare systems are under financial strain.

It’s not fully clear how much the prizes have cost the Russian government.

State TV channel Rossiya 24 reported that the fleet of BMWs was provided by the Olympians’ Support Fund, which is backed by a group of Russia’s richest men, but that the accompanying cash prizes of tens of thousands of dollars per medalist came in part from the federal budget.

More awards are on offer from regional governments, many of which made public displays of generosity despite financial troubles of their own.

The Caucasus region of North Ossetia last month promised a free apartment for any medalists from the area, though it isn’t clear if this has happened yet.

In another grand gesture, the head of the restive Dagestan region gave Olympic wrestling champion Abdulrashid Sadulaev 6 million rubles ($93,000) in cash and a racehorse at a lavish welcoming ceremony featured on local TV.

Still, all may not be well for Sadulaev, who’s nicknamed the “Russian Tank” for his habit of crushing opponents on the wrestling mat. He’s already facing an allegation from a Moscow radio presenter of reckless driving in his eye-catching BMW.

MORE: Putin slams Russia’s Paralympic ban

Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic venue progress video

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The next Olympics, the Pyeongchang Winter Games, are in 530 days.

Organizers of the first Winter Olympics in South Korea published a time-lapse video of venue construction on Thursday.

The video shows updates for the main coastal Olympic Park, including short- and long-track speed skating, figure skating and hockey arenas, the sliding center in the mountains and the Olympic Plaza, which will house the Olympic Stadium for Opening and Closing Ceremonies.

As NBC News reported, one concern is a potential lack of natural snow, which 2010 and 2014 Winter Games organizers had to deal with as well. Man-made snow is always a safety-net option.

MORE: Pyeongchang 2018 mascots unveiled